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I think part of the polarization is because web design is still in its infancy, and there are very few standards on how to actually do it.
For example, I’m shocked at the number of people that don’t seem to use wireframing as part of their process. It’s much easier to establish basic hierarchy, structure and content in your wireframes than in your design. And much easier to change those things and get client sign off without distracting the client with visual styling.
Once you adopt a process with wireframing, most of the benefits of designing directly in the browser disappear. You already know the way the HTML is going to be written from a good wireframe. But you’re not limited to it, and you can go from there into Photoshop, Illustrator or Fireworks (I heavily recommend Fireworks, unless you’re planning on using a lot of visual effects or complex graphics).
Until web design has been around long enough to develop best practices we all agree on, we’ll have debates like this. That’s how those best practices eventually get established. Young firebrands make outrageous claims and try to shake things up. If they’re right, the industry moves that way, and if they’re wrong, the industry doesn’t.